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“Do I need health insurance when I arrive in Canada as a new immigrant?”

This is a question we hear all the time. The confusion often stems from the fact that Canada’s is well-known around the world for having a robust publicly-funded healthcare system that gives Canadians access to certain medical services for “free” (healthcare is paid through taxes, so you’ll feel the cost in your paycheque).

But, how do you get access to this healthcare system? And what do you do if you can’t access it?

Well, that’s what we’re here to answer. In short, your access to Canada’s publicly-funded healthcare system depends on two things:

  1. Your immigration status, and
  2. Your province of residence.

New residents to Canada get different access to healthcare depending on their immigration status. For example, visitors don’t get any access to the publicly-funded healthcare system, so all visitors are encouraged to buy private health insurance.

We recommend two companies to get started with when researching health insurance:

  1. Cigna provides free quotes to newcomers looking for international health insurance. .
  2. BestQuote compares health insurance and travel insurance options from multiple companies, all for free. .

Meanwhile, permanent residents, like those admitted through the Express Entry system, receive the same access to healthcare as Canadian citizens… except for one tiny problem:

Sometimes new immigrants who should, in theory, have access to the Canadian healthcare system, have to wait a few weeks or months after they arrive in Canada before they gain access to the publicly-funded system. The length of this delay, or whether or not there is even a delay, depends on the province in which the newcomer chooses to reside.

For example, in Ontario, new residents with permanent resident status need to wait three months to gain access to the publicly-funded system, while in Nova Scotia, the same group of people gain access as of their first day as residents.

You might be wondering what the situation is for you. For the rest of this article, we’re going to break down what to expect for healthcare in your first few months in Canada. First, we’re going to review what to expect for different types of immigration status. Second, we’re going to review what to expect in each province.

We recommend two companies to get started with when researching health insurance:

  1. Cigna provides free quotes to newcomers looking for international health insurance. .
  2. BestQuote compares health insurance and travel insurance options from multiple companies, all for free. .

Immigration status: Health insurance requirements for your first months in Canada

If you are not yet in Canada, but you’re planning on arriving soon, consult this list of common types of immigration status to figure out your health insurance needs for your first months in Canada.

International Experience Canada (IEC) - including the Working Holiday program

Permanent residents (Express Entry, Family Class, PNPs, and more!)

Super Visas

Temporary workers (except IEC)

International students

Visitors and tourists

Province of residence: Health insurance requirements for your first months in Canada

If you are planning to immigrate to Canada, you may be eligible for health coverage from the publicly-funded health care system. However, this coverage is administered at the provincial level and eligibility requirements vary from province to province. Consult this list to determine the requirements for your intended province of residence.

Alberta: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants to Canada

British Columbia: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

Manitoba: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

New Brunswick: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

Newfoundland & Labrador: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

Nova Scotia: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

Nunavut: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

Ontario: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

Quebec: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

Prince Edward Island: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

Saskatchewan: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

Yukon: Health insurance requirements for new immigrants

We recommend two companies to get started with when researching health insurance:

  1. Cigna provides free quotes to newcomers looking for international health insurance. .
  2. BestQuote compares health insurance and travel insurance options from multiple companies, all for free. .

About the author

Hugo O'Doherty profile picture

Hugo O'Doherty

He/Him
Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
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